Melatonin supplementation could help elderly insomniacs have a good night's sleep.
Elderly insomniacs often are deficient in melatonin, which is a hormone usually released by the pineal gland at night to help regulate the sleeping cycle.
Researchers from Aging Research in Bat-Yam, Israel, tested 12 elderly patients who were receiving various medications for chronic illness and who all complained of insomnia.
Each was given 2 mg of slow-release melatonin every night for three weeks, followed by three weeks of a placebo, with a week's interval between. They all reported having much better sleep while taking the melatonin, although they did not know when they were given the melatonin, and when the placebo.
The study's findings are in line with earlier research which has shown that melatonin can help overcome jet-lag and other sleep disorders. But the findings this time were more emphatic, possibly because the subjects were all low in melatonin in the first place.
But the researchers sound a note of warning: perhaps the drugs the elderly subjects were taking were responsible for the melatonin deficiency.
Instead of just prescribing melatonin replacement supplements, doctors should first investigate existing drugs that patients are taking as a likely cause (The Lancet, August 26, 1995).